Asl show full of quiet comedy
On stage, a man screams and stomps and signs language while another translates it into English over the laughs of the audience.
The performers are Windell Smith Jr., “Wink,” and Keith Wann. Wink has been performing comedy for four years, and Wann for 10.
Both are CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults) that grew up learning American Sign Language (ASL) primarily, and spoken language through other means. Both performers took speech therapy to learn how to speak English.
Many of the jokes were about deaf culture, and both performers recanted stories from their CODA youths.
The performers would periodically switch roles, one taking the stage and one translating for the other.
“I trust him (Winn) to put into equivalent English what I’m signing to make it funny to hearing people,” Wink said. “And then sometimes (when translating) I go off script just to see. I see it, and I say it.”
Often the signer would joke about the interpretation of the translator.
“There’s comedy in our bantering too, that’s what we try to show,” Winn said.
Even so, they expressed that ASL, like any other language, lends itself to some interpretation. Some of the humor of the show came from the stage performer pointing out the partners’ mistakes, and the friendly banter that ensued.
Members of the audience, largely comprising students that are learning ASL, were called upon to participate in the show as well.
Wink pulled another CODA from the audience, Missie Johnson, 24, General Studies, Potlatch. He humorously demonstrated how CODAs meet and romance with her.
One pair of students, Kayla Hitchcock, 28, Communications, Hayden, and Caleb Orr, 20, Pscyhology, Cd’A and vice president of the signers’ club, were both tasked with acting out a narrative.
“I thought it was hysterical. I have a very juvenile sense of humor and so I loved it,” Hitchcock said. This was her second time on stage with the duo.
Their last guest was a deaf member of the audience, who acted out the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” with the two comedians.
The event was run by the ASL Signers’ Club, and sponsored by Diversity Events and ASNIC.
“This is the third time they’ve been here,” said Cat Miller, 22, Sign Language Interpreting, Lancaster, Virg. Miller is the president of NIC’s Signers’ Club.
“To bring them this semester was our big event, and they spread deaf culture,” Miller said. “To be able to spread deaf culture is pretty much why we do everything we do.”
Wann and Wink also operate an Internet channel called the ASL Radio Show where they interview deaf people.
For videos of some of their performances go to youtube.com/codawann.